NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of emergency responders simulated a subway terror attack on Sunday, days before one of the city’s biggest public events: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The long-planned drill at a Manhattan station got a last-minute update in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris. Officials added an “attacker” wearing a suicide vest.
“In New York City, we are, at this time, very well-prepared and continually improving that preparedness,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said outside the abandoned Bowery station in lower Manhattan.
The three-hour active-shooter exercise was staged in the pricey Soho neighborhood, sprinkled with art galleries and boutiques. Members of the police, fire and federal Homeland Security departments went into action after a mock call reporting a gunman on the station platform.
Of about 30 simulated straphangers in the station, a dozen suffered “critical wounds” from weapons firing blanks. Firefighters removed them on thick yellow plastic sheets — some covered in fake blood — and law enforcement personnel took on the threat.
First responders from various emergency departments worked as a team, with communication and coordination between agencies an important goal.
“There have been very significant improvements in that capacity since 9/11, also the coordination with the fire department,” Bratton said.
The Department of Homeland Security used the exercise to test technologies including GoPro-like cameras worn by first responders and acoustic gunshot detection systems designed to give police and firefighters information to organize their responses. Such systems are being developed for surveillance of the subway system, the commissioner said.
Sunday’s drill was funded by Homeland Security, and Bratton said there would be more such practice runs, which he says are “vitally necessary” and provide valuable lessons.
Bratton said New York law enforcement authorities, together with Homeland Security, are working closely with Paris investigators studying details of the Nov. 13 attacks there, aiming to prepare for similar suicide bombings that New York has never experienced.
The police commissioner said New York would send a law enforcement team to Paris when that probe was completed to learn as much as possible from those operations.
Mayor Bill de Blasio watched the drill, later calling it “an impressive display of the capacity of this city to respond.”
The Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks has said it would target the U.S., especially Washington and New York.
Bratton noted there is no specific threat against the city. But security in the subways, Times Square and other prominent sites has been bolstered.
On Thanksgiving, thousands of officers — including 1,300 counterterrorism officers — will patrol the parade route and watch over millions of spectators, Bratton said. The parade passes through Times Square.